The recent Emirates Airline accident is both a timely reminder that bad things happen to companies with exemplary records and a prime example of how to handle a crisis. Whether it’s a plane crash or a server crash there are universal lessons that can be learned from the way Emirates handled this particular accident.
Emirates Flight 521 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Thiruvananthapuram, India, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, operated by Emirates. On 3 August 2016, the aircraft carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew crashed while landing at Dubai International Airport. All 300 people on board survived the accident; an airport firefighter died during the rescue operation with thirteen people being injured. This accident was the first loss of an aircraft operated by Emirates.
Passengers on flight 521 used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share news of the accident. The main news outlets followed quickly through both their normal channels and on social media; today, news breaks at the speed of light.
Emirates marketing and PR were well prepared, with a plan and policy to handle just such a crisis. Following a well understood series of steps they worked to lead the news cycle, reassure the public and protect their brand reputation. The objectives during any major crisis are to protect all individuals (employee or public) who may be affected by the crisis, ensure the key audiences are kept informed, and that the organization survives. Your written crisis plan should include specific actions that will be taken in the event of a crisis; forming a crisis team consisting of senior contributors from PR, HR, legal, marketing, operations, and other relevant functional areas that can come together quickly and has the authority to act.
If the crisis could potentially impact the health or well-being of customers, the general public or employees, it will attract mainstream media attention. Emirates promptly issued a statement from His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman & Chief Executive – the big boss didn’t have to be the first and only media spokesperson.
During a crisis ensure your company speaks with one voice and delivers a clear and consistent message, a spokesperson, and an alternate, must be identified ahead of any crisis and be capable of answering media questions and participating in interviews, some of which may be hostile. Being 100% available is impossible but having an informed, collaborative and capable PR operation will deliver effective media interaction; for some OOKII Company clients we are built-in as the wave 1 crisis management comms team.
Warren Buffet once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” It is critical to be honest and open about any issues you or your company may be facing. If you made a mistake, admit it, apologize, and do everything in your power to correct it. Your customers don’t expect you and your teams to be perfect, just transparent and honest. Emirates issued a number of statements as the crisis unfolded each one sequentially numbered in the subject line, so that the chronology of events was easy to follow.
Align every channel
This obviously depends on the exact nature of the crisis. The key is to demonstrate leadership and express empathy by whatever means is appropriate. For example on August 3rd Emirates immediately changed their logo to neutral colours and removed the cover image of smiling flight attendants on their social media accounts; Facebook 6,200k fans, Twitter 765k followers and Linkedin 598k connections. This “greying out” of social media during a crisis is now becoming expected.
Are you prepared?
In any organization there are a number of scenarios that can be deemed a crisis – from the very simple (e.g. a bad product review), to the extreme. News breaks so quickly there is no opportunity to play it by ear. Every organization needs to be prepared and ready. OOKII Company has deep experience of developing crisis management plans, if you would like our advice and guidance to develop your crisis management plan we would be delighted to talk with you.
First published by Adrian G Stewart at OOKII.Company